“Absolut Lang” Redux: a cutting-edge art exhibit for “virtually” everyone

Helmut Lang – Austria’s premier fashion designer, chief architect of 90s minimalism, and now cyber installation artist – has paired with Absolut Vodka to bring a new, “groundbreaking” dimension-defying aesthetic experience to everyone – well, those of us over 21, anyway.

Until December 31st, you can head to Absolut’s site to check out Lang’s cool, cryptic cyber “exhibit”, In An Absolut World’s “Alles Gleich Schwer”. How best to describe this internet art gallery? Think of the experience as an online “pop-up” art installation meets virtual brainteaser. A perfectly noble way to fill time, provided you are of legal age (or can type a fake birth date to access the site).

Pretentious? A little. Fun? More than you think.

In person, “Alles Gleich Schwer”, — Lang’s first solo art exhibit, which made its physical debut at Hamburg’s kestnergesellschaft this fall — is the catalyst which advances a shift in focus from garments (as worn by humans) to objects celebrated as they are. Online, though, the message is secondary to its medium, as the exhibit aims to transcend its pixelated state to become “art without boundaries”. But does it succeed?

To get the full benefit of the Absolut/Lang experience, interaction is key. Upon arriving at “Alles Gleich Schwer”, you are promptly encouraged to “explore the space”, so to speak — for example, you can “pick up” and “flip” Life Forms 2008. Or, you can click on Séance de travail, 1993-1999, 1998 — in real life, a video projection on a mirror — and, well, watch its video. For those demanding a materialist fix, there are DYI art posters you can print.

Basically, “navigating” entails a lot of cursor-dragging and zooming in, scary ricocheted gunshot effects, and frenzied power scrolling. Before you complain, bear in mind that Helmut Lang is a Nineties man (remember 1995’s “Absolut Lang” campaign?) The decidedly lo-fi, archaic vibe here is almost surely intentional.

Back then, Lang was also an internet pioneer — he showcased his late 90s collections online, way before Viktor & Rolf were doing it because of financial restraints or before JC de Castelbajac was doing it for sh*ts & giggles. Lang’s technophilia was nothing if not a product of his time.

Overall, “Alles Gleich Schwer” looks amazing — in person. The online “radical” experience promised amounts to little more than a glorified virtual tour riddled with technical difficulties. Ironically, Lang’s directional thinking was lost in translation — for us, browsing the hopelessly 2D platform was akin to being stuck in a RPG time warp.